For many law firms, it’s been decades since e-discovery transformed from an after thought into a full-fledged practice area. But even today, some are still unsure of their place in the e-discovery market. After all, it’s not just them and legal tech companies serving corporate clients’ e-discovery needs anymore—there’s also alternative legal service providers (ALSPs), who strive to be a holistic combination of their two counterparts. Corporate clients too have become more sophisticated and demanding: Modern legal departments know how much technology has evolved, and with it, how much prices should reflect that. They understand the risks of e-discovery done poorly, and how to do more of it themselves. And they know it’s a buyers market out there.

Amidst these heightened expectations, ALSPs, unencumbered by traditional legal structures like hourly billing or a long-held resistance to technology, are giving law firms’ e-discovery businesses a run for their money. But firms aren’t just getting underbid. Today, ALSPs are more than inexpensive options, they’re providers that corporate legal departments have come to trust as business partners. And as these ALSPs continue to expand their foothold, some firms are ­confronting a difficult question: Does it even make economic sense for them to compete? Of course, firms will always have a place in e-discovery beyond technical tasks such as data culling and review, namely where e-discovery intersects with the practice of law. It’s the type of legal risk management corporate clients depend on them for above all else, and a type of work ALSPs can’t legally perform (and don’t expect to win even if they could). But beyond that, some firms believe it prudent to cede some e-discovery work to ALSPs, and partner with them when necessary.

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